Art of Józef Wilkoń in Japan

Art of Józef Wilkoń in Japan
Opening: 22.05.2019, 2:30 p.m.

Józef Wilkoń’s fascination with Japanese culture has been amply repaid with admiration for his art. He has admitted to an early interest in Japanese painting and woodcuts. These inspirations are evident in his brushwork and the way he works with surfaces, and might explain why his work has come to be so appreciated by Japanese art-lovers.

Józef Wilkoń was first published in Japan in the 1970s, when Shiko-Sha publishers bought the rights to Little Tom and the Big Cat, but the breakthrough came in 1986, when Etsuko Ogawa of the Sailor publishing house saw his work at the Book Illustration Exhibition in Tokyo. Impressed by his talent, she brought a total of eighteen books with his illustrations to Japanese readers.

In 1999 an exhibition of Wilkoń’s work was held at the Oshima Museum of Picture Books at the initiative of Mr Hasegawa with the support of the city’s mayor, Mr Chikara Yoshida. The mayor became friends with the artist, and the Museum acquired two hundred artworks which now make up the largest collection of his pieces in the world.

There are currently around four hundred works by Wilkoń in Japanese collections, and over thirty books with his illustrations are available in bookstores. The artist has visited Japan nine times to take part in exhibitions and run art workshops for children.

The mayor of Oshima has admitted to being enthralled by Wilkoń’s vivid images steeped in Polish culture—and by Wilkoń himself, with his sincerity, unflagging energy, and the way he cherishes his audience, and especially children. According to Chikara Yoshida, Wilkoń’s works at the Oshima museum build a bridge between Poland and Japan: “These works are so fascinating that people from all over Japan come here to see them, and are deeply moved by the warmth emanating from them. It is an honor to own works by Józef Wilkoń and to be able to show them to the people visiting our Museum.”

-Blanka Wyszyńska-Walczak

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